From BART to Bluegrass

Yesterday I had to make space in my wallet for my shiny new ECU ID card (so excited to be able to check out books and scores from a music library for the first time since I finished my masters at the U of A),

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and I stumbled upon a pocket containing fare cards from the public transit systems of a few cities I’ve sung in lately. It made me feel well-traveled and cosmopolitan to lay them on the table.

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They’re nice reminders of great music and fun times I’ve had in New York,

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San Francisco,

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and Boston.

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As I scanned through my photo collection to choose the city photos above, I got tired just looking at all the places I’ve been in the past year. I adore travel and it’s one of my favorite parts of my job. Sometimes though, it’s the best thing in the world to have a beautiful fall weekend at home and a free evening tomorrow to go hear some bluegrass music downtown.

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A Tire Tale

I wasn’t expecting my weeks of teaching at home in NC to generate any travel-related stories for Soprano in the Air. But adventure can happen even on I-264 between Greenville and Raleigh. I offer this post as a cautionary tale:

If your Buick is pulling sharply to the right and shaking like CRAZY, it might be wise not to make the high speed, 80 mile drive home, even if the nice man at the tire store in Greenville checks out your tires and tells you they’re safe to drive on. Because if you do, you just might get stuck on the side of the interstate somewhere west of Wilson due to a blowout like this,

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and you might have to wait an hour for AAA to come and change the tire you can’t change yourself because of your dumb back but thank goodness it’s not too hot and it’s daylight and you have snacks and you used the restroom before you left ECU and you have a smartphone to tell you where you are because honestly you were cruising along listening to NPR and you only know you passed the I-95 interchange, or at least you think you did,

and then you might have to amble on your spare donut down pretty country highways at speeds under 50 mph, heading ever westward in a vain search for a tire place with 70-15 size tires that is still open that time of day because you will never get all the way to Chapel Hill on country roads at under 50 mph (plus you’re not supposed to drive far on a donut) in time for your rehearsal that night,

and so you might have to continue west all the way to your beloved (but closed) regular garage which luckily is east of Raleigh, where you leave the car and keys when your calm husband, having driven exactly the wrong direction from his work to Chapel Hill, picks you up but not before you do something terrible,

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but hey, desperate times…and anyway a biscuit and cole slaw isn’t the very worst vegetarian pre-rehearsal dinner you could consume,

and then you and your husband who btw is the director of the group might get to your 7:15 rehearsal in Chapel Hill miraculously only 15 minutes late, but only because you left an uncharacteristically generous amount of padding time when you first started this journey at 3:00 p.m. in Greenville.

So, check those tires.

Kickstarter Adventure

Our Voices of a New Renaissance concerts last weekend were a huge success. They were musically excellent and exciting, and the size and response of our two audiences were better than we’d even dared to dream. We ran out of programs Saturday night! We now have an official group photo:

VOANR group photo

And it’s on to Phase Two. Now that we’ve successfully launched VOANR, it’s time to plan for the group’s future. We want to make an even bigger impression with our next concerts, to reach new audiences and cement VOANR’s place in the Triangle’s music scene. To fund our January 31-February 1 Love and Loss concerts, we’re raising funds through a project on Kickstarter.

I’ve been a Backer to several (7, according to Kickstarter) friends’ Kickstarter projects, and I’ve always looked forward to being involved in a project of my own. So far it’s been a blast. First, N and I created a goofy project video. And then we launched our project

Kickstarter project

— and then we waited to see if people were as excited as we were, and if they’d become Backers.

The response has been overwhelming. The generosity of our fans, friends and families is thrilling, encouraging and humbling. In the first 72 hours we exceeded 20% of our goal. I’m pretty addicted to checking our project’s dashboard on Kickstarter’s site:

Kickstarter dashboard

Now we just have to start writing amusing and informative email updates to our Backers, and to keep up the momentum until we reach our goal. Click here to see where we are.

A Musical Launch

For a couple years N and I have talked about starting a professional choir here in the Triangle, and last spring we decided to stop talking and make it happen. There isn’t a professional choir here that specializes in early music, nor one that performs across the entire 3-city area, so that gave us inspiration for our group: Voices of a New Renaissance.

VOANR logo

Our first concerts are tonight and tomorrow. We’ve gathered ten of the best singers from around the Triangle,

Voices of a New Renaissance members

(one of them missing from this photo, but official group photos coming soon!) and our rehearsals so far have been thrilling.

The program for this weekend is titled Sacred and Profane and it explores both the sacred and the secular sides of vocal music. We’ll sing Renaissance favorites like Palestrina’s “Sicut Cervus” (and its little-performed second part, “Sitivit anima mea”) and “Hosanna to the Son of David” by Weelkes, plus selections from Britten’s multi-movement “Sacred and Profane” which is stunning, and Craig Wiggins joins us for lute songs by Dowland and his contemporaries.

N is conducting, and I volunteered to manage the business aspects of the group, along with singing in the choir of course. I always need to have a project going, and I’ve enjoyed the organizational and promotional aspects of the smaller groups I’ve managed, Les Sirènes and the Swara Sonora Trio. Running VOANR seemed like a logical next step. N and I have been busy getting everything up and running, but so far it feels like everything is totally under control. Are we crazy?

If you’re in the Triangle area, please join us tonight or tomorrow. Complete concert details are on our website, www.voanr.com. If you’re far away and you want to follow VOANR’s progress, find us on Facebook or join our email list.

And wish us luck!

Life, Balanced by Work

One of the very best perks of my job is getting to combine work travels with visiting friends and family all over the country. If I had to plan them as stand-alone trips, I’d never be able to schedule in all the visits I get every year by staying late or going early to a gig. Even during a gig I can sometimes squeeze in a lunch or coffee date with a long lost cousin or college friend, and it’s special to be able to give comp tickets to loved ones and have them in the audience for performances that are far from home.

Last weekend I combined rehearsals in the Boston area with a family reunion at my Auntie Sue’s house in Connecticut. She used to host these late summer BBQs most years, and her place is perfect for a whole day of visiting and playing.

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There are horses and fields, and room for horseshoes, croquet and volleyball, or just running around. As usual, this time there was great food, including veggie burgers on the grill, snappy fresh corn on the cob, and delicious homemade desserts baked by various members of the family.

I haven’t able to attend a summer BBQ in probably ten years, and I didn’t even know until I arrived that this was the first one in five years. Since families have grown and schedules gotten full, it’s been harder to get everyone together at once. Even last weekend not everyone could come, but there was still a large, rowdy crowd, with lots of laughing and teasing and a very competitive, all-afternoon game of horseshoes.

Despite the intermittent rain it was a beautiful day, with people sliding from eating to talking to playing at a leisurely pace, and thoroughly enjoying each others’ company.

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